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SA hosts student forum to discuss alcohol culture

By Caleb McBride     11/8/12 6:00pm


The Student Association meeting on Nov. 5 was a forum-style event, designed to garner student opinions on the alcohol culture at Rice and moderated by the SA executive board. Students spoke out about issues such as caregiving, personal and group responsibility, educating incoming students and defining our current situation. 

Duncan College President Kelvin Pho said the forum was an important step in addressing the incidents at Night of Decadence regarding alcohol consumption. 

"The fact of the matter is that conversation is helpful and important to every decision we make," Pho, a senior, said. "Every person has a stake in the community, and everything said at the forum will help both student leaders and administrators move forward on this issue." 

Students said every college's drinking culture is unique. Some have year-oriented divisions, while others are more united. Some students said that when the drinking culture is segregated by year, freshmen do not have the advantage of being surrounded by more experienced students. Others said senior students often urge underclassmen to drink more in environments where they are together. 

Some attendees said they think social life at Rice relies too heavily on alcohol. One student mentioned that he doubted NOD would have been fun had students been sober. 

One student asked, "How can Rice create a social drinking culture when parties are held in a dark room and students are told that they must chug their punch before they leave the room?" 

Students made positive comments about the Emergency Medical Services amnesty policy, the culture of walking to and from parties with other students, and the fact that Rice parties are held on campus, reducing the number of students driving while intoxicated. However, students said there are problems with those who pregame for pregames. Others said the expectation for students to be intoxicated on days such as Dis-O, the Saturday after Orientation Week, is also an issue, as is the shortage of non-alcohol-based social programming and activities on campus. 

In response to prompts about how to nurture an effective culture of care, students offered several different ideas regarding both group and personal responsibility. 

In response to the suggestion that servers similar to those at public parties should play an important role in private parties, students said they doubted the effectiveness of peer governance on this issue. Freshmen, who would likely staff this position, may not feel comfortable refusing to serve a senior, especially one who is inebriated, students said. 

On the subject of college-wide governance, a peer probation was suggested as means of enforcing limits. This system is already in place in many of the college courts, according to some students, but no reports have been offered on the system's effectiveness. 

Another student said the caregiver program has worked to educate students on how to take care of peers who have gone past their drinking limits. 

One student said friends, not caregivers, should take care of each other and questioned the reasons for the organization's existence. Training does not properly prepare students to care for intoxicated individuals, some students said. 

However, other attendees doubted whether more intensive training sessions would be well-attended. Some students said the education they received in their caregiver training was beneficial. It was suggested that caregiver training be made part of O-Week and that the program be sustained throughout the year. 

"Having education throughout your four years here is effective," one student said. "O-Week cannot be the only time for alcohol education." 

Current caregivers said there is a need to foster dialogue between Rice EMS and caregiving leaders regarding at what stage of inebriation caregivers should call REMS. One student said the Wellness Center is preparing a training session that will equip students with the skills and confidence necessary to tell friends and peers when they have had too much to drink. 

The meeting ended with students urging other students to discuss their respective visions for Rice's drinking culture and to plan and engage in more non-drinking-related social programming, such as NODgeball, DuncStep and Screw-Yer-Roommate, throughout Rice and Houston. 

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